THE DIXIE SWIM CLUBby Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten
Denton Community Theatre
Directed by Connie Lane and Mildred Peveto
Set Design – Bill Kirkley
Lighting Design – Vicki Kirkley
Costume Design – Elsie Barrow
Properties – Tracy Carney
Sound Design – John Rodgers
Dena Dunn – Lexie
Kim Campbell – Dinah
Lana Hoover –Sheree
Karen Glossett – Vernadette
Polly Maynard – Jeri Neal
Reviewed Performance: 6/8/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Dixie Swim Club is written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. Collectively, they are known as Jones Hope Wooten and specialize in Southern humor, creating over twelve plays that have been produced all over the world and are favorites in community and dinner theatres throughout America. They have the reputation of being three of the most popular and widely-produced playwrights in the United States.
Denton Community Theater and Directors Connie Lane and Mildred Peveto have done an outstanding job with The Dixie Swim Club. Each of the five actresses is not only talented, but performs like they are family. The blocking is superb and enhances the performance, lending to the fights and friendship between these ladies.
Set design by Bill Kirkley is well thought out and goes the extra mile. The setting is the living room of a beach house, but Kirkley goes beyond the main room to the outside patio, front porch, and kitchen off of the living room. Each of these small locations allow for the feel of a complete home. The backdrop of ocean, light house and beach is what really allows for the set to feel real.
Tracy Carney, in designing and selecting the properties, has an eye for the details. Real food and drink adds an element of authenticity. From Lexie’s use of a disposable camera in Act One to the use of a walker in Act Two, the small elements Carney adds help delineate the time progression as well as enhance the performance.
Costumes by Elsie Barrow bring the characters to life. As the personalities of the ladies are reveled, their clothing adds an extra dimension to each of them. Lawyer Dinah is always clothed in power suits or expensive wear to show her wealth. Vernadette, on the other hand, is on the other side of the spectrum in overalls, clown suit and her simple outfits. Sheree, the team captain, is always in athletic wear, Lexie is decked to the nines, and Jeri Neal always has some form of her past life as a nun on her, such as a rosary.
Vicki Kirkley’s lighting design is such an integral part of the show. While most of the show is done in full, generic lighting, the simple elements of changing the backdrop to orange for sunset or blue for the upcoming storm show not only the passing of time but also adds mood. At the very end, spotlights fade in as the ladies say one final goodbye to the beach house, and the final slow fade to black allows the audience to feel the emotional journey they have just encountered.
Sound by John Rodgers is spot on. While the music before the show seems disconnected, this is the only place where it didn’t work. Each and every song, from “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” to “Under the Boardwalk” is in line with the show and a great addition. The other elements of sound such as ringing phone, slamming car doors and thunder, continues to add depth to take the audience to the next level.
Each of the five ladies in the play is written to have a specific connection with the audience. The group’s matriarch Sheree, played by Lana Hoover, reserves the house every year, keeps everyone in line and on schedule, and forces her inedible healthy food on everyone. Hoover is, hands down, an amazing actress and perfect for this role. She is constantly wagging her finger in the other girls’ faces, and has a skip to her stride as she leads the girls through the schedule. Hoover moves beyond this though with her crossed arms and pursed lips as her frustration grows with the other ladies. It is within the changing tones of her steady voice that she allows the others to see Sheree’s unsteady side. As her character ages, her use of a cane is so real I could feel her age right before my eyes. Even in this, Hoover never waivers from Sheree’s motherly role she has adopted towards the group.
Lexie is trying to hold on to her youth, with nips, tucks and revolving door of husbands. Dena Dunn nails this role and is such a joy to watch. She is constantly wide-eyed, school-girl giddy and smiling whenever talking of a male. Dunn talks with her hands, and every movement leads to our reminder that she is self-centered. She rolls her eyes when the conversations move beyond her, and heavily sighs. Dunn, though, truly ages through her voice. While her physical attributes are still young at heart, her voice becomes deeper, with more soul, which rounds out her character nicely.
Dinah, the no-nonsense lawyer with a drink always in her hand, is played by Kim Campbell. Campbell constantly looks down her nose, has pursed lips and hands on hips, and never leaves her courtroom appearance far behind. Yet, Dinah also knows how to become a friend. As the play progress, Campbell’s chuckles and side glances to the other ladies, show true camaraderie and friendships that have spanned the decades. Even with her patronizing pats to Lexie, the light shining from Campbell’s eyes show her character’s tenderness as well. Campbell does a superb job and is cast perfectly for this role.
Karen Gossett plays Vernadette, whose children are in a perpetual state of incarceration, and always a day late and a dollar short. Vernadette is the comic relief of the show, and there is no one better than Gossett for this role. Gossett’s stone face and monotone voice add to the dry humor of the play. Vernadette is constantly injuried (arm in a sling, crutches, a neck brace), and Gossett plays these up through the use of pillows, slow massages to her neck and slow gait with the crutch which leads to the believability of her accidents. Her deep, throaty voice is calming and fits Vernadette perfectly. Once again, I am amazed at the old Vernadette in the last scene of the play. Beyond her slow gait and purposeful speech leads, it’s her sad eyes that show she’s unsure of where she is. Gossett’s poignant display of this is what had tears streaming down my face.
Last but not least, Polly Maynard plays Jeri Neal, the ex-nun we first meet at eight months pregnant. Maynard, through her wringing hands, bright eyes and soft voice, portrays an air of innocence. Her broad facial expressions lead to a hearty laugh and shining smile. I am also flabbergasted on how well Maynard ages. She has a constant shake, hunched shoulders and a shuffle as she moves. Her voice, while still soft, holds the kind of wisdom that only comes from her life experiences.
Denton Community Theater has outdone itself with The Dixie Swim Club. Bring your best girlfriends or significant other, a box of tissues, and be prepared to join in on the journey of a lifetime.
Denton Community Theater
214 West Hickory
Denton, TX 76201
Runs through June 15h
Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00, $18.00 for seniors (62+), and $10.00 for students and children.
For information and tickets, go to www.dentoncommunitytheater.com or call the box office at 1-940-382-1915. You may also purchase tickets one hour before curtain time at the theatre, if available.